MCON12 Live Blog: Building & Sustaining Relationships with the Next Generation

Submitted by Sarah on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 8:17am

Throughout the day, I'll be living blogging sessions from MCON12, a virtual conference to help leaders engage the Millennial generation. For my first session, I attended "Building & Sustaining Relationships with the Next Generation" with Holly Ross of NTEN.

When it comes to donations, we're currently thinking about a few generations . These include Matures, (born in 1945 or earlier); Boomers (born in 1946-1964); GenX (born 1965-1980), and finally Millennials (born after 1980). Each generation has unique traits we need to think about when trying to build relationships and deepen our engagement. Matures and Boomers, for example, are more likely to make a long-term commitment when it comes to giving; they are the generations we're really comfortable with. We're already framing our issues in ways that appeal to them, and have the systems to support that.

GenX on the other hand, is bucking the current trends. They grew up in an age of post modernism; not only cynical and pre-disposed to change, they are much more diverse than previous generations. Sending the form donation letter to everyone in GenX is not going to have the same effect as it does with Boomers or Matures.

Holly's first point on Millennials is that they are a very social generation. According to the Convio report, the Next Generation of American Giving, Millennials are engaged in charity. While they are giving less than their more mature peers, they want to be engaged and tend to volunteer at a high rate. Millennials realize they've inherited some problems, and are ready to roll up their sleeves to fix them.

So, how do we engage this generation? Referencing the Millennial Donor Report, when it comes to trusting a nonprofit organization, the factors that influence Millennials, are relationship driven - based on personal connections to the leadership, or the organization. Simply put, Millennials are motivated by who they know.

Millennials are not just motivated by their personal relationships, they are thinking about them differently than ever before, using technology in new ways to sustain their relationships. Millennials use email, Google, and Facebook to learn about organizations and decide whether or not they want to form that relationship. This is also reflected in how they actually give, 58% of Millennials prefer to give online via a website.

Millennials' interactions with the online world do not stop at traditional online interactions. Ninety-three percent of Millennials in the US have a smart phone. Even more interesting, there are no racial or ethnic differences in phone ownership. Holly draws the connection via the Pew Internet & American Life Report that online access is moving away from the laptop experience. An equal number (55%) of Millennials are accessing the Internet via mobile device as they are a computer. This makes it ever more important to provide a mobile version of your site, especially donation sites or other sites where you're asking for action.

With Millennials, it's all about multi-channel engagement. They don't just want to receive an email. They want to receive the email, tweet about it, and share it with their friends. Specifically think about ways to make peer-to-peer giving, which capitalizes on the importance of relationships, multi-channel.

By the nature of interacting with an organization in so many online spaces, Millennials can make the math messy. They don't necessarily donate in the same way that they first engage with you. They may get the email in a mobile version, sign up for a text message update, and then the next day log onto your website to give. This can make it hard to calculate ROI and figure out where these donors came from. What was it that motivated them?

We're still figuring out the intricacies of how to track this. One example would be to segment out the groups that you send follow up text messages to after they receive an email, then compare these segments to see which group was more engaged with your organization.

One final point from Holly: Millennials want to be engaged with your organization. They want a say regardless of how much they are donating. Think about ways to ask this generation's opinion in less time-consuming ways. They may not want a tour of your organization, but they want to give their opinion in an online survey. We have to start thinking about our fundraising not as a one-to-one endeavor between ourselves and our donors, but as a peer-to-peer environment where our donors will engage their friends and family.

What do you think? Have you found Millennial donors to be so focused on these relationships? Share your experiences with peer-to-peer giving in the comments below.